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March/April/May 2011

Winners All... We name the names!

Cutting Corners The internet ‘threat’: we don’t name names!

What’s in a name? A new idea for upholsterers comes to life

by Crowson

Official journal of the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers


Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher

Equinox by Crowson Contemporary designs in fresh modern colour palettes make up this vibrant new collection from Crowsons’. Rosario and Tiago are beautifully drawn designs interpreted in rich linen Jacquard weaves. Four bold and exciting prints with hints of metallic and flock effects, Floresta, a wonderfully loose brushstroke floral, Palmelo with dramatic stencilled leaves, Salvador a flowing organic stripe and Cassina with it’s bold Catherine wheels of colour make up the heart of this collection. A forward thinking Check (Pico) created with recycled natural fibres and extremely hard wearing completes this range. The colours, warm comforting reds, sophisticated blacks, fun pinks and limes, rich mauves, vibrant purples and stylish shades of blue offer an abundance of choice. Have fun and enjoy transforming your living space with this inspired collection.

The Crowson Group Crowson House, Bellbrook Park, Uckfield, East Sussex TN22 1QZ Tel: 01825 761044 Fax: 01825 764283

March/April/May 2011

Winners All...

We name the nam


Cutting Corners The internet ‘threat’: we don’t name nam es!

What’s in a name? A new idea for upholsterers come s to life

by Crowson

Official journal of the Association of Maste r Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers k

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher Editor: Jan Turner, AKA PR T: 01756 795374 F: 01756 798789 E: Sales: Joanne Miller T: 01732 783561 E: Tim Boden T: 01732 783561 E: Ben Watkins T: 01732 783561 E: Jarrod Bird T: 01565 659414 E: Published by Interiors Media Limited Unit 11, Riverside Business Centre, Riversidew house, Riverlawn Road, Tonbrigde, Kent TN9 1EP T: 01732 783561 F: 01732 783562 E:

Jan Turner Editor It’s always lovely to get feedback from readers and members. I know you’re all busy frantically trying to make ends meet, so sometimes it’s the sheer rarity value of your feedback that makes it so special! The great Mary Portas (bit of a personal heroine of mine) is currently turning her very powerful attentions to customer service across the retail sector and it was the programme looking at service issues in the world of High Street sofa superstores that prompted a call to us at U&SF from Southamptonbased Derek Caplen of Dee Cee Upholstery. Derek was quite rightly hopping mad about the way business is done in many of these stores and the knock-on effect it has on the traditional upholsterer. As Derek points out, the Big Boys have effectively positioned sofas and armchairs as disposable fashion items which barely last longer than the interest-free four years the buyer has to pay for them. Worse still, their steamroller of a marketing machine has nuked any notion of quality and completely devalued the entire upholstery sector. “When people come to me, generally the first thing they ask is what’s my best price,” said Derek. “Even long time customers are coming back and beginning to question the price – even though they know that they get top quality workmanship and a job that will last for many years.” Derek reckons that somewhere between 25–50% of upholstery sold these days is not worth reupholstering and a further 25% is so ‘high tech’ that it is impossible to replicate. The result is a shrinking market which many upholsterers are only surviving by diversifying. In Derek’s case it has been into healthcare chairs for which, interestingly, people don’t ask How Much? but How Soon? In the mobility sector, at least, price is not the issue. How sad then, that so much of the ordinary domestic market is so completely dominated by price and that quality and craftsmanship barely enter in to the equation. It was in a small bid to get quality back on the agenda that U&SF recently announced the launch of the first ever AMUSF Awards so that really top class work could be recognised and applauded. And it is here that I return to the sentiments of paragraph one! Unfortunately the feedback was not as great as we might have hoped, so in the end our judges felt it would be unfair to single out any specific suppliers, upholsterers or soft furnishers for special mention. We are, however, delighted to put the spotlight on the companies and individuals who were nominated and you will find details of these on our centre pages. Each will receive a special certificate to display in their place of work, recognising their nomination. If there is anyone else YOU think is also deserving of special mention then pick up the phone or send me an email and we’ll consider doing an article on them in future issues. There are a huge amount of talented and dedicated upholsterers and soft furnishers out there: and some terrific customer-comes-first suppliers who deserve a taste of the limelight. All I need is for you to tell me about them! Until the next time...

Jan Turner

Registered in England no. 6397722 Printed by Headley Brothers


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Kobe UK Ltd Suite D, Loddon Vale House, Hurricane Way, Woodley, Berkshire RG5 4UX, UK Kobe UK Ltd Tel: 0844 7420 800 Fax: 0844 7420 801 Tel: 0844 7420 800 Fax: 0844 7420 801 Email: Website:

Email: Website:

Contents News

Bespoke Insurance Solutions for the Furniture Industry


AMUSF News Update and Branch Briefings


Industry News

Features 10

Taking Issue: Cutting Corners


Show Business

14 & 15 Winners All

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New Products


Feature: A Supporting Role


Project: Holy Orders


Training: The Upholsterer’s Apprentice


Memory Lane: The Perfect Tan


In the Hotseat: Wendy Shorter

AMUSF Contacts Head Office Association Manager: Susan Spencer Email: Francis Vaughan House, Q1 Capital Point, Capital Business Park, Parkway, Cardiff, Glamorgan, CF3 2PU Tel: 029 2077 8919 Fax: 029 2079 3508 Website:

Branch Contacts Beds, Bucks, Herts and North London – Wendy Shorter Tel: 01727 824358 Email: Hants & Dorset – Kevin Lee – Tel: 01489 572108 Wales & West – Val and Des Fanning – Tel: 01823 400621 Email: Kent –Davin White – Tel: 0208 854 4402 London – Wynne Gilham – Tel: 01708 752333 Surrey – Ron Mercure – Tel: 0208 941 4521 Scotland – Sandy Stewart – Tel: 01555 772052

Regional Contacts East Anglia – Mark Polley – Tel: 01254 361665 Yorkshire – Mavis Baddeley – Tel: 0113 2633031 Beds, Bucks & Herts – Bert Chapman – Tel: 01707 652932 Email: West Midlands –Bob Bishton – Tel: 01543 257001 (daytime) Email:



A new event from the Worshipful Company of Upholders had crowds flocking to Skinners Hall, London, in November. The ‘Flocke & Feather Event’ – an exhibition of the craft of the upholder followed by a supper and auction – was held in aid of the Peter Jackson Charity. Students from London Metropolitan University and Wendy Shorter Interiors, together with craftsmen Philip Wellesley-Davies, Greg Cuppitt Jones and Steve Franklin and companies such as Louis Moreau (The Quilters), Heritage Trimmings and Leverton & Sons Ltd (independent funeral directors) had an opportunity to showcase their work. The event raised a total of £3,487.68

CRASHING BORE Remember this picture? It was featured in the April/May 2010 issue of U&SF after Sue and John Oliphant of Strathvale Furnishing in Forfar, Scotland received an unexpected visitor to their showroom – in a car! Clearly the fault of the 88-year-old driver who smashed through the glass frontage and proceeded to demolish furniture and the boiler en-route through the shop with his car, it was nevertheless the start of a long and involved insurance claim for the Oliphants. Despite being covered for replacement value through Giles Insurance Brokers, the couple were told by the first loss adjustor to visit the showroom, that they would only receive 70% of any claim. Sue and John told us: “Thankfully, with help from the AMU legal helpline, contacts at Trading Standards and the very helpful manager at Giles we had the claim by the first loss adjustor overturned and got full cover. “Giles have been very good throughout – it’s the loss adjustors who are the problem. We are still battling for the £250 excess charge from the insurance company and a claim we put in for loss of profit for around three weeks is still ongoing. As with all claims that are not your fault, you are always out of pocket as insurance companies are quick to take the money but slow to settle.” So check your insurance policies carefully and use an insurance broker who – like Giles – is on your side!


Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher March/April/May 2011


This is how one Worthing company changed its product range in line with the winter weather! Furniture manufacturer Furnitureworks, better known for its handmade sofas and chairs, created the ‘Snow Sofa’ after employee Vince Ashby had a flash of inspiration while walking to work in the snow from Lancing. Said md Kevin Baker: “We feel sure this new line is going to be a big hit among the elite set that buys Furnitureworks products.” Let’s just hope sales don’t go into meltdown!

BOARD NEWS Chairman Des Fanning reports on the February 3 meeting: As well as receiving its normal reports on finance and on the activities of the association, the board was informed that since November, there had been no fewer than 20 applications for membership. These were being processed and although not all would succeed in becoming new members, some undoubtedly would. This level of interest by upholsterers and soft furnishers was a clear indication of the effectiveness of our new website. Progress on the move from Cardiff was also discussed. The estate agents attempting to re-let the Cardiff office for us had had no success yet but the association had received a very attractive offer of alternative accommodation. The terms were so favourable financially that it would be possible to move without having to wait for a replacement tenant for Cardiff. We have therefore accepted the offer in principle. We will of course give members more details as soon as the agreement is finalised. The board ratified the decision taken at the last OGM to give retired members voting rights. Retired members will therefore be entitled to vote at all general meetings of the association and to make nominations for directorships and for the posts of president and vicepresident. The rule book will be amended accordingly.

AMUSF news roundup NEW MEMBERS Welcome aboard to our latest new members – Bob Barnett and partner Sara Carter of Barnett Upholsteries of London; and Liz Cox, based in the heart of rural Hampshire. Bob’s first taste of the upholstery trade came through a National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO) course. An apprenticeship and training at the then London College of Furnishers followed and Bob eventually went on to start his own business in 1999. Three years later he started teaching and still does so privately as well as helping disadvantaged children to learn the trade that transformed his own life. Sara was a student of his in 2005 and quickly discovered a natural talent for fabrics.

Combining their talents, Bob took Sara on as a business partner and they are now looking to become a limited company. Prospective new member Liz Cox was visited by assessors Kevin Lee and Mary Crack. They said: “Liz has been a working upholsterer and soft furnisher for a good many years but has recently been persuaded by Bert Chapman to become a member of the AMUSF. “Her workshop is light and airy and well laid out and she is now in the process of extending it. We have quite often found that small rural businesses seem to be busier than those in towns and cities,

Sarah Carter (left) with Wendy Shorted Bob Barnett

Liz cox

mainly due, we think, to a more closed circle and word of mouth recommendation. We were very impressed with the standard of her work and feel that she will be an asset to our association.”

Branch briefings

I The Hants & Dorset branch Christmas dinner almost became a victim of the cold and icy weather. As it was, we lost Caroline because of mechanical trouble with her car - she broke down in the snow and ice just outside Reading on her way to us and had to wait for the AA to rescue her! Meanwhile Joan and Dave, as well as having a broken boiler, were snowed in at home. Bev couldn't make it through illness. However, like the stalwarts we are, we carried on with our reduced numbers, and still had the usual riotous time. We were delighted to have the president, Wendy Shorter, and her husband Steve as our honoured guests. This is the first time they have joined us and we hope it won't be the last! Next meeting arranged for Wednesday March 9 at Dee Cee Upholstery 502 Portswood Road Southampton starting at 7pm. Contact Kevin Lee/Mary Crack on 01489 572108.

Hants and Dorset Christmas Dinner

I The Beds, Bucks, Herts & North London regional networking meeting was held on January 19. Hosted by Wendy Shorter, the meeting was very well attended by members and students, who were presented with an informative and inspirational talk by Jo Sealy of ToMarket

about how to market both well established and fledgling businesses. There were lots of tips and advice on websites, niche markets, advertising and promotions as well as linking to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter: a lot to think about and work with! The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday April 6 – venue and information to be confirmed. Contact Wendy Shorter on 01727 824358 I A personal report on the Kent branch Christmas dinner dance by Jim and Joan Johnson: My old man said, if you want to have some fun Kent Christmas Dinner and Dance is the one, and don't Dilly and Dally on the way. Old time musical was the entertainment. Our Brenda Oviatt and Peter Finch country is having a rough time at the moment, no money, redundancies, hard finding work, it's all doom and gloom. I am looking out of my window and it's starting to snow. Great. A smile comes across my face and I see other smiling faces. Laughter, people clapping. I'm back at our dinner and dance once again. What a way to cheer people up, a good old sing song. I knew all the words to the songs, I'm what you call an old timer. The young were all doing their bit to make a great evening. After all that singing I went to the bar, where I was in conversation with an 18-year-old. It was his first time at the dinner and he said he would definitely be coming again. What more do you want? Well done the committee, you cracked it once again. Many thanks from me and the 120 guests and strictly Yourselves. For more information contact Davin White on 0208 854 4402.

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher


Industry roundup

TRANSATLANTIC CROSSING STUDENTS FUNDED BY FIT Cristina Ionescu and Harry Owen have both been awarded SWELLS FIT FUNDS scholarships from the Furnishings Industry Trust (FIT) to study for a furnishing qualification at Bucks New University. The £5,000 bursary was presented to them at the Interiors Show at the NEC, Birmingham in January. FIT announced the launch of the scholarship and bursary scheme, supported by the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers, in June 2010 to support students on BA and MA furnishing industry qualifications.


Tony Attard, OBE crossing the Atlantic

Tony Attard, OBE and national president of the Furnishing Industry Trust (FIT), has raised over £10,000 for the charity after completing his biggest ever sailing challenge across the Atlantic. Tony was part of a five man team, and on their vessel ‘Seaduced’ took part in the 2010 Atlantic Rally for Crusiers (ARC). Tony said: “Crossing the Atlantic was a life changing experience. Most importantly, thanks to many generous supporters and sponsors, we raised over £10,000 for our very deserving FIT charity and needy people will benefit”.

MORE DEMAND FOR FURNITURE OMBUDSMAN TRAINING COURSES The Furniture Ombudsman (TFO), which covers more than 2000 retail outlets in the UK, has recorded a 67% uplift in the popularity of its training courses over the same period last year. Training courses from TFO help employees deal with customers and understand consumer law, showing that retailers are putting more thought into their legal obligations and raising customer service standards. Courses are either held at TFO offices in Stevenage, Hertfordshire or on-site at retailers. Kevin Grix, head of the Furniture Ombudsman said: “We plan to service future demand by providing more courses in 2011”. To find out more, contact Dominique Le Grand on 0845 653 2064, or email


Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher March/April/May 2011

A National School of Furniture has been launched. A partnership between Bucks New University and Oxford and Cherwell Valley College, the new school aims to raise the profile of the furniture industry by offering a diverse range of furniture qualifications – from bespoke industry courses to diplomas. The school will be linked with the furniture industry through the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers. At the launch Dr Lynn Jones, head of the school at Bucks New University said: “This will be a hugely exciting and innovative venture and we believe we can help people get to where they want to be”.

BFC LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN TO GET FURNITURE INDUSTRY VOICE HEARD The British Furniture Confederation (BFC), the organisation that represents the furniture trade in parliament, has published its 2010 strategic plan for the life of the present government. The strategic plan focuses on seven key areas: supporting a vibrant UK furniture base, committing to sustainability, encouraging good design, maintaining safety and quality, increasing skills, maximising markets and encouraging exports. BFC chairman Martin Jourdan said: “Our mission is to sustain a strong and influential dialogue with the government and to work to ensure its policies help support a thriving UK furniture industry”.


H. Webber & Sons

58 Dene Street, Dorking, Surrey, RH4 2DP

Tel. 01306 740433 Fax. 01306 740811


Taking issue

CUTTING CORNERS Upholsterers are complaining of being undercut by websites selling fabrics direct to customers at up to 20% off the recommended retail price (RRP). US&F investigates. hen an upholsterer quotes the RRP for fabric only to be told by a customer that he or she can get it for up to 20% less, they might be in danger of having their integrity - unfairly questioned. Adrian McCann of Putney-based Kingston Traditional Upholstery, 30-year members of the AMUSF, has been embarrassed by this very issue: “A customer ordered two new sofas from us and chose a fabric with an RRP of £101 per metre. When we told her the price, the customer said she could get it for £80 per metre online.” And so they could, Adrian found, from websites such as selling the same fabric as Adrian and other upholsterers, but direct to the customer at a much reduced price. Wendy Shorter, AMUSF president, owner of Wendy Shorter Interiors and director of training for the AMUSF, is not sure that enough upholsterers are aware of this issue. Wendy said: “These websites just buy a couple of books after opening a small account and then get the fabric companies to send products straight through to the customer, meaning they’re making a profit by doing next to nothing.” When U&SF spoke to the sales director of the company Adrian buys his fabric from, they said: “We are aware that this is a problem and are dealing with it as best we can, but we find our hands are tied by the EU’s competition laws.” To explain, EU competition law prohibit agreements, arrangements and concerted business practices which appreciably prevent, restrict or distort competition – whatever that



competition may be. Failure to comply with UK or EU competition law can have very serious consequences. The fabric company sales director continued: “Our priority is to protect our accounts and help the businesses that have them, so, for now, our policy is to offer people like Mr McCann discounts so that they can compete with the websites. If and when the EU competition laws are relaxed a little more (there were signs of this last year when Armani and other fashion brands won a landmark case against equivalent websites selling their

designer gear at much reduced prices) we will be in a better position to deal with these websites.” But Wendy Shorter is sceptical: “I believe the reason this problem isn’t being addressed by the fabric companies is because of the sheer volume of their products passing through the websites.” When Wendy raised the issue with a fabric company she has put business through for many years, their response was a little less reasonable – they took her trade discount away!

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher March/April/May 2011

The company’s director later called, ostensibly to smooth things over by offering to reinstate the trade discount (albeit, a lower one than the original) but things soon became heated: “He said that these websites were promoting their fabrics, and that I wasn’t because I didn’t have a showroom. The fact is that I do have a showroom, and also promote their products to the 50 or so students I have each week.” And Derek Caplen, owner of Southampton-based Dee Cee Upholstery (and a Fellow of the AMUSF – FAMU) says that though he is very much aware that there are websites selling fabric at much less than the RRP, the problem is not a new one. “This sort of thing has been going on for about 20 years - long before websites came along - with people trying to make a quick buck,” said Derek. “People used to advertise cut-price fabrics in the back of magazines; and fabric clearing houses and market stalls have been selling end of line and seconds for ages. But we’ve had no luck getting fabric companies to deal with the problem.” Ultimately - though we have declined to do so here - Wendy Shorter would like more upholsterers to be aware of this threat to their business: and for the fabric companies allowing this to happen to be identified by the AMUSF and confronted by its members on the issue, so that we can get to the bottom of it and nip it in the bud. Perhaps you agree? Have you experienced this issue? If so, we’d like to hear from you – send us an email at

Suppliers to the Upholstery & Soft Furnishing Trades

G We stock over 2,000 items, from Antimacassar Pins to Zip Jigs. G Fabrics supplied include Ross, Wemyss, Jim Dickens & Rioma. G Tracks and poles by Integra, Silent Gliss, Speedy, Riel Chyc and Blacksmith We are proud to remain an independent family firm, continuing the traditions of helpful service throughout the UK.


Biznaga collection from Rioma


SHOW BUSINESS It’s been another busy couple of months on the interiors show circuit with Heimtex (January 12 – 15, Frankfurt am Main) and Interiors Birmingham (January 23 – 26, NEC) kicking the year off to a brisk start. U&SF reports on some of the highlights. HEICO COMPETITION HIGHLIGHTS NEW TALENT At this year’s Interiors Birmingham show, the Heico Fasteners UK stand was once again a focal point for upholsterers as the winners of the company’s second Design Competition were announced.

Winners All! Seen l-r are: Runner-up Liz Alsop; Malcolm Hopkins of London Met; AMUSF judge Joan Milton; winner Jenny Anderson; Stuart Elmy of Heico; runner up Pauline Craze; and AMUSF president Wendy Shorter.

Held to promote Heico’s powder coated range of decorative nails, this year’s competition was again held in conjunction with the AMUSF but broadened to include students of Wendy Shorter Interiors as well as London Metropolitan University. Taking first place was Jenny Anderson of London Met. Runners’ up were Liz Alsop and Pauline Craze from Wendy Shorter Interiors. Caroline Hoggarth and Yvonne Hunt (also Wendy Shorter students) were highly commended. Said Joan Milton, AMUSF financial director who was on the judging panel and presented the awards: “We were impressed and delighted with the quality of design and workmanship of all the entries. It made the decision this year very difficult – all were worthy winners. “Our criteria as judges was not just the imaginative use of Heico’s decorative nails but the overall quality of the finished


product and how true it was to the original concept submitted as mood boards.”

OTHER NEWS FROM INTERIORS BIRMINGHAM Fabric wholesaler Jim Dickens unveiled the brand new Kilim Collection – an on-trend range of upholstery and drapery fabrics. Jim Dicken Kilim collection Available in six designs (including a coordinating stripe, herringbone, patchwork and classic design) in four colourways, a major benefit of the range is that it is FR inherent – so no backcoating or interliner is required. Answering an age-old problem, James Hare, the silk specialist, launched Savoy Silk, a heavyweight silk James Hare Savoy Silk satin with a unique curl-free finish which, they say, drastically reduces making-up time for drapery and decorative upholstery. Concept Textiles, suppliers of curtain and upholstery fabrics for the domestic and contract sectors, launched three new prints ranges and two new weaves including Richmond, a luxurious velvet stripe in eight colours with a 45K rub test. Heico Fasteners UK launched their new upholstery tools and double cone spring ranges. The range of tools includes webbing stretchers, tack claws, staple removers and magnetic hammers. As well as launching a new-look logo,

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher March/April/May 2011

Kobe introduced new curtaining and upholstery fabrics at the show including Inoxy, a collection of innovative yarns combined with refined production techniques to create a stylish tension between matt and radiant yarn effects. The range includes Incology which has a particularly unusual decorative textured finish.

HEIMTEX HIKES UP VISITOR NUMBERS Heimtextil, the home-textile highlight (January 12 – 15, Frankfurt am Main) attracted three percent more trade visitors from 136 countries (2010: 120) and five percent more exhibitors, according to organisers. Over 73,000 trade visitors from purchasing, the retail trade, interior decoration, architecture, design and contract furnishing attended the four-day trade fair, an increase of around 2,300 compared to last year. Still to come....the Hong Kong International Home Textiles Fair (April 20 – 23, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, ) with over 240 exhibitors from 12 countries and regions.....the world preview of furnishing fabrics and curtains at Proposte (May 4 – 6, Villa Erba, Cernobbio, Italy, .....and, closer to home, The Manchester Furniture Show (July 17 – 20, Manchester Central). The industry’s longest running trade exhibition, an additional hall has been added for 2011 and exhibitors this year include the Willis & Gambier group and Morris Furniture Group. They will be joined by well known exhibitors such as Buoyant, BM Furniture, TCH Furniture, Furnico, Corndell, Kettle Interiors, Seconique, TCS and Harrison Brothers. For further information visit

Flavoursome Furniture from Furnital Visit our NEW website to view our on-line brochure Established 25 years ag o, Furnital Ltd have been supplying the trade with predominan tly rawunfinished chair fram es ranging from the small independen t local upholsterer, interior de signers, architects and contract furnishers.

range We offer an extensive ng chairs, of raw un-finished dini r stools and carvers, armchairs, ba ucts are tables and all the prod produced to carefully selected and ions, ensuring the highest specificat them as that you come to love much as we do!

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WINNERS ALL! When U&SF announced the first ever AMUSF Awards towards the end of last year, it was to recognise the outstanding work of upholsterers, soft furnishers and suppliers. In the end our judges felt that everyone nominated was worthy of a place in the spotlight, so this special spread is dedicated to them. Glover Bros Ltd One of the oldest upholstery and soft furnishing suppliers in the UK, Tauntonbased Glovers (founded 1899) is now owned by Charles and Helen Petri and stocks Glover Bros - Charles and Helen everything Petri from curved mattress needles to curtain rails, lawyers’ bodkins and zip jigs. A van service covers the whole of the West Country while orders can be couriered nationwide.

Greenway Upholstery Stephen Greenway established his oneman upholstery business in a workshop in Dorchester, Dorset some 15 years ago and undertakes all aspects of domestic reupholstery – both modern and antique working on mainly local commissions.

Fine Quality Feather Established in 1995, the Fine Quality Feather Company is based in Frome, Somerset and manufactures feather or fibre cushions - all different qualities of feather (feather/down, down/feather pure down etc). It also offers a coverwork service making scatter covers, seat and back covers.

Linwood Linwood is a family run business, based in the heart of the New Forest. It was founded in 1994 by Richard Gloyn and his sons – identical twins Barny and Warrick who now share responsibility for design, sales and marketing. The company designs and supplies a wide range of


fabrics and wallpapers, created and coloured in house.

Henry Newbery Founded in 1782 by Berkshire weaver John Newbery, six generations of Newberys have gone on to build an international reputation for the company and its products. Based in north London, the Trimmings from Henry company offers a Newbery & Co Ltd variety of interior collections including stock and bespoke trimmings and fabrics from around the world.

modern materials. The business recently moved to Wiltshire and upholsters everything from simple footstools to highly intricate antique sofas requiring renovation.

Wendy Shorter The current president of the AMUSF, Wendy lives in Hertfordshire and after working as a professional upholsterer, now runs her own training school in Colney Heath. Her first book, ‘Professional Soft Furnishings’, was published in March 2010. Last year also saw Wendy win the Inspirational Woman of The Year title in the first ever Women in Furnishing Awards.

Martins Upholstery Supplies Barry Townsend Based in Earlsfield, London, Barry originally ran Townsend Associates and set up Townsend Systems in 2003 to carry on with his ideas on chair springs and coils, including the Wonder Swivel Ring which is his best-selling product. Also available are upholstery coils, Webrider Compact Units and Webriders.

Martins Upholstery Supplies is a family owned company based in Kent and run by husband and wife team Nigel and Diane along with son Darren. Nigel has been in the trade for well over 30 years. The business supplies upholstery sundries throughout the south east and beyond and stocks everything from adhesives to zips.

Hampton Court Interiors

Ross Fabrics

Founded in 1983, Surrey-based Hampton Court Interiors offers both new and restoration upholstery services. A wide variety of work has passed through the doors of the business which is run by Ronnie Mercure who has been in the trade since he was just 16.

Established in 1933, Ross Fabrics supplies a comprehensive range of upholstery fabrics, distributed nationally and internationally. The company operates from a purpose built office and warehouse and offers a full roll or cut length service from stock on over 2500 different fabrics on next day delivery.

Richardson & Paige Interiors Richardson & Paige has some 30 years experience in upholstery and is able to manufacture bespoke furniture, working with the best of traditional methods and

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher March/April/May 2011

Joan Milton and J A Milton Upholstery Supplies When Joan Milton became involved in teaching upholstery , she discovered how

advanced upholstery section of London Metropolitan University since 2003. Several of his former students are now pushing the craft forward and creating designer/maker roles for upholsterers.

remains a family affair and from its base in Sussex, specialises in supplying small upholstery companies based in the south east with converted foam.

Voyage Joan Milton at work

difficult it was for the DIYer or small business person to obtain tools or materials and went on to launch her mail order Upholstery Supplies Catalogue. A practicing upholsterer for 21 years specialising in traditional upholstery, Joan now reserves her skills for the classroom.

H. Webber Ltd H. Webber was originally established in the City of London in 1902 by Harry Webber of Taunton, Somerset. The company has developed a unique range of products to serve the textile, upholstery and leather craft trades with products - from upholstery hand tools and needles to staples, tackers and leathercraft tools – available by mail order.

H. Vaughan Founded in 1902, H. Vaughan has been supplying frames to the upholstery trade for over 100 years. The founder’s brother, Henry Francis Vaughan, joined the firm in 1936, stayed until his retirement and is remembered for having founded the AMUSF. Today the firm is run by Hales and James Vaughan, the founder’s grandsons.

Roy Theobald The son of a traditional upholsterer who worked for Coopers of Gravesend, Kent. Roy continues the proud tradition of upholstery from his showroom/workshop at Staplehurst in Kent. A long time member of the AMUSF Roy has always been an active member and held many positions within organisations across the industry.

Kobe Fabrics Kobefab International b.v. has been operating under the brand name Kobe since 1976. Its international head office is based in Holland and the company has its own in-house design and research and development Kobe Inoxy - Incoloy cushion teams. Along with new product, the company launched a new logo at Interiors Birmingham 2011.

Bute Fabrics Bute was founded more than 50 years ago on the Isle of Bute and has become an award-winning industry leader. Today the company collaborates with such leading contemporary designers as Tom Dixon, Jasper Morrison and Matthew Hilton, weaving for the likes of Knoll International, Habitat and Designtex.

Heico Heico Fasteners UK Ltd. is part of the Heico Group of companies and offers a range of products and services to a wide variety of markets. As well as the upholstery sector it serves those in the automotive, industrial, interior design and film industries.

Furnital Celebrating 27 years of importing Italian contract furniture for the hotel and leisure industry, Furnital supplies to the trade: from small independent local upholsterers to interior designers, architects and contract furnishers.

D. C. Upholstery Established for over 30 years, D. C. Upholstery provides a complete upholstery service, recovering and reupholstering all types of modern and antique furniture, including suites, sofas, firesides, boat cushions and cushion replacement. Based in Gillingham, Kent, the business is run by David John.

Stuft Interiors Stuft Interiors was established in June 2007. Initially upholstery and soft furnishing led, it has developed into a full interior design service. Recent projects include a number of large houses in the Hertfordshire area.

Southern Foam Alex Law Alex has been upholstering since the late 80s, and has been lead tutor in the

Southern Foam was started in 1983 by Charlie Flack who had previously worked for Pirelli and Dunlop foam. Today, it

Voyage Decorations was established in Scotland in 1998 with the simple aim of providing woven, embroidered or printed fabrics using high quality cloths. Collections are sold in over 35 countries through some of the world’s leading fabric brands.

Edmund Bell Edmund Bell is a key supplier of curtain linings and says it holds one of the widest selections of linings in the world. Founded in 1855, the business was purchased by Brian Atherton in 2008 and his son, John Atherton, is now md. In 2005 the company won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade.

Cover-Tex Situated in the heart of East London, Cover-Tex was founded in 1977 by David, Hazel and George Brown. Using their knowledge and experience of the upholstery market, Cover-Tex quickly became one of the leading wholesalers to the upholstery industry, supplying a broad range of over 1700 fabrics nationwide.

British Trimmings BTC Trim, through the heritage of its brands, has over 200 years experience of designing, manufacturing and wholesaling trimmings and related products. The company says its worldwide coverage provides a unique perspective on emerging trends in colour, design and materials used.

Furnitureworks Based in Sussex, Furnitureworks manufactures a wide range of furniture with the emphasis on chairs and sofas, cabinet and table making. The company’s factory also features a classic frame shop as well as polishing facilities and an upholstery shop. The business is a trade only furniture manufacturer.

Ronald Allen West Midlands-based Charles Allen & Son Upholstery specialises in the restoration of antiques and the use of traditional methods of upholstery. Ronald Allen has been in the industry for 50 years and run the family business for the last 25.

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher


New products


Equinox is an exciting new range of fabrics just launched by Crowsons and consists of a versatile collection of weaves and prints, available in a wide choice of colours. For more information visit

Have A Great Weekend!

In its new Weekend collection of printed cottons, Prestigious Textiles has created an array of motifs and colours guaranteed to enliven kitchens and dining spaces, utility rooms and family living areas. Five designs embrace a medley of ladybirds and butterflies (Papillion), evocative vintage rosebuds (Rose) and stylised retroflowers (Collette), complemented by two simple

geometrics (Fizz and Cubic). All are on a heavyweight cotton panama, suitable for curtains, blinds and cushions in addition to kitchen and dining accessories. All Weekend fabrics are also available with a soft-sheen PVC glaze for applications demanding wipeclean practicality. For more details call 01274 688448, e-mail or visit

Garden Party Fresh for Spring 2011 is the new Garden Party collection by Prestigious Textiles, a traditional floral story on cotton panama in a series of contemporary colour stories. Garden Party opens with Full Bloom, where rambling roses trail over a shadowy backdrop of patio pots. This is complemented by a random scattering of rosebuds on a floral silhouette (Melrose), an elegant trellis of abstract ogees (Avebury) and the noble Stocks, which features fine leaves gently unfurling

around tall, flower-topped stalks. The collection is completed by Lizzie, a soft mosaic reminiscent of the crazy paving to be found winding its way around country cottage gardens. Colourways are headed by the grey/fuchsia Elephant and the charcoal/lime Greenstone, with stories based on palettes of pomegranate, willow, mulberry, lavender, chintz, peony, duck egg, eau de nil and onyx.

For more details call 01274 688448, e-mail or visit

The AMUSF has a hydraulic work bench at Cardiff which needs a good home and is worth several hundred pounds. Anyone interested in acquiring this useful piece of equipment should send a bid to the Cardiff office (Francis Vaughan House, Q1 Capital Point, Capital Business Park, Parkway, Cardiff, Glamorgan, CF3 2PU) in an envelope marked “Hydraulic work bench – sealed bid”.

The successful bidder would need to collect the bench.


Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher March/April/May 2011

Thousands of upholstery braids in stock




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Karen Wickham

An introduction to upholstery led Karen Wickham to develop a clever new product that is now making life easier for new and experienced upholsterers all over the country. hen Karen Wickham decides to have a go at something, she likes to give it her all. So when she decided to finally have a go at reupholstering a pair of old Lloyd Loom chairs that had been stored in her garage, the former accountant and IT professional decided she needed to immerse herself in the project completely. Without further ado, she took herself off to Wales for a complete week at the AMUSF approved Elizabeth Marks traditional upholstery workshop at Meidrim near Carmarthen. But as well as setting her on the course of a new passion, the introduction to upholstery also sewed the seeds for a new business idea that is now helping other upholsterers too. Said Karen, who lives at Hook Norton in Oxfordshire: “The course really fired me up. When I got home I wanted to start another project but knew I would still need the guidance of a tutor. “I began working on a Victorian button back chair with the help of Oxford-based teacher and professional upholsterer, Jan Donley. The training centre in Wales had got purpose built, sofa sized workbenches and the workshop in Oxford also had some fixed height tressles to work on. “The more I had to go backwards and forwards with my chair and use the tressles, the more I realised I needed a tressle that was adjustable. And how useful something collapsible and portable would be to work on at home in my little cottage. “I got talking to a good friend who is a carpenter and explained what I really needed. Between us we came up with the design for a height adjustable and portable tressle that can be used as a workbench for anything from a small footstool to a large Chesterfield sofa.



Essentially it’s a collapsible pair of extremely sturdy ‘edged trays’ that support the legs or feet of the piece of furniture being worked on, enabling the upholsterer to work at a level appropriate to the size or design of the piece. “We developed a prototype and then I spoke to various people in the business to get their thoughts and ideas. Richard, my carpenter friend, then started to develop the componentry – unbelievably there are about 100 separate parts and 30 different processes involved in making it up!” Originally conceived as a solution for her own needs, other upholsterers – both professionals and serious hobbyists – were soon showing interest in Karen’s tressles. “It was just a box of parts until we gave it a name and then it began to take on a life of its own,” said Karen. The Harry Potter-esque sounding ‘Trezul’ was chosen, partly a play on the word ‘tressle’ but also – with Karen’s IT experience to the fore – because it is very ‘search engine effective’. “Students, teachers and professional upholsterers who are more mobile than workshop-based, all seem to have found it an absolute boon”, says Karen. “It’s also

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher March/April/May 2011

the perfect answer for anyone who is squeezed for space and simply doesn’t have room to install large workbenches.” Assembled in minutes, Trezul’s compact footprint and handy carry-case make it completely portable. And being hand made from FSC semi hardwood with both forged and pressed metal parts ensures it is both strong and durable with the work platform being height adjustable from 43cm to 63cm, in four fixed steps. Said Karen: “We were getting such good feedback that by late last summer I realised that this could be a business opportunity that should be actively marketed. “I didn’t set out to ‘invent’ a new product for upholsterers, just to find a solution for my own situation. But having solved my own need, it’s great to know that Trezul is helping a lot of other people too and enabling them to continue with work that they might not otherwise have been able to do.” The Trezul costs £299. For more information visit



Chair Frames Sofa Frames Cabinets Tables

Other in house services include: I CNC Machining I Polishing I Upholstery Phone: 01903 202008 Fax: 01903 200663


HOLY ORDERS When Ronald Allen of Charles Allen & Son Upholstery took the call from organisers of last year’s Papal visit asking him to restore a crumbling 19th century ecclesiastical chair, he knew he had landed a once-in-a-lifetime project. est Midlandsthe wood. He took based Ronald pictures at every stage of Allen landed a the process to ensure the plum project when he was organisers were happy tasked with restoring a with his adjustments. highly prized, antique chair We asked what his for the chapel at West secret was when it came Midlands-based New to the final design? Said Oscott College for the 2010 Ronald: “It all comes visit of Pope Benedict XVI. from experience. I had Having been in the the basic idea in my head industry for 50 years - and of what I wanted it to as a specialist in restoring look like but I would antiques - organisers felt develop it as I was going Ronald was a perfect fit for along to see what I the job at hand. His father thought worked best. owned Charles Allen & Sons “My initial plan was to The Papal chair before its renovation The Papal chair stripped before him and four of his cover it in cardinal red, uncles were also upholsterers. however the organisers suggested “It runs in the family,” said gold as this was a better fit with Ronald. “I used to come home the church interior so I carefully from school and watch my chose a luxurious velvet. father in the workshop. In time “It was quite a straightforward I began to work on some of project – keeping it simple was the the smaller jobs and developed idea but because of the importance a love for the industry.” of the occasion I felt the pressure to Ronald worked with his get it just right. Diligence is always The Pope sat in 'The Chair' father for four years when he needed when it comes to restoring left school, learning the even taped up. antiques to truly bring out the natural traditional methods of “However, once beauty, so I always use traditional upholstery such as hand you scratched methods of upholstery. For this project I stitching and the use of tacks beneath the surface combined the use of tacks and top which Charles Allen & Son you could see the stitching in the arms and the main body Ronald Allen and 'The Chair' Upholstery still believes in today. beauty of the chair was hand stitched.” He then went on to work for G. Clarke for and imagine how spectacular it must have The chair was used by the Pope during five years before returning to his father’s looked when it was originally made. The his visit to New Oscott College on business which Ronald has run since his history behind it is fascinating – it was September 10 where a ceremony took father’s retirement 25 years ago. used in chapel ceremonies by high place with the Archbishop of Birmingham, After being approached in January 2010 dignitaries of the church for years before it Reverend Bernard Longley. And it proved by the organisers of the Papal visit, Ronald deteriorated and I wanted to bring it back such a success that Ronald received an was asked to view the chair which dates to life.” invitation to meet with the Archbishop for back to around 1830. He said: “It was a Ronald started the project last May. a personal thank you for “truly fulfilling his complete mess. It was covered in dust and Under pressure to complete it by holy orders!” dirt, the material was ripped and the September, he began instantly by stripping Ronald’s chair can now been seen at The stuffing was hanging out - one arm was the chair down to its frame and polished Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.



Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher March/April/May 2011

by Crowson


THE UPHOLSTERER’S APPRENTICE Proskills UK has been successful in securing government funding for employers in the furniture and furnishings sector for competence training and qualifications such as NVQ/QCF. But, asks U&SF, what about funding to encourage young people to consider a career in upholstery? ord Digby Jones, former trade minister, recently said: “It is essential we have an education system which introduces teenagers to the fascinating and worthwhile career opportunities in the vibrant and successful manufacturing sector.” We raised this very subject in September’s Taking Issue, bemoaning the lack of funding available to upholsterers and soft furnishers to subsidise the cost of training young people. Great news then, you would think, that Proskills UK has been successful in securing nearly £3.5m in government funding as part of the Joint Investment Programme (JIP). JIP was created in September last year to pool private and public investment on a matched basis in a bid to grow training levels in key areas of the economy. Almost 140 employers involving over 3500 learners will be able to access up to 50% funded support for level 3 and 4 NVQ/QCF industry-specific qualifications, with Proskills advising people to sign up in the next couple of months as places are on a ‘first come, first served basis’ and this round of funding finishes this summer. But the fact that NVQ/QCF qualifications are open only to people of 19 years-old and over means there is still no funding in place to allow upholstery and other craft businesses to give training to teenagers or take them on as apprentices. Director of training and current president of the AMUSF Wendy Shorter is currently working with Proskills and talking to government through the All Party Parliamentary Furniture Group about the current suite of upholstery and soft furnishings qualifications available and trying to secure funding for them. Wendy welcomes news of the JIP funding, but did say: “There are plenty of older people looking for a change of career



and often travelling a long way to do so. But those people are all self-funded, and young people with no money can’t self-fund, so can’t afford to attend.” And experience has shown Joan Milton a practicing upholsterer for 21 years who now reserves her skills for the classroom that taking on an apprentice is a risk: “Taking on apprentices used to nearly send my business to the wall when I ran my workshops. It takes two years to get apprentices to a point where they make you any money, and before that they cost you a great deal.” Lord Digby Jones’s speech indicates that politicians are aware that schools are not flagging up a career in a trade or craft like upholstery as an attractive and valid alternative to university. Wendy Shorter has noted the reluctance of a local school to allow her to speak to pupils about the possibility of them considering upholstery as a career – with Wendy and Joan Milton both suspecting that schools are under pressure to encourage as many children as possible to go to university, even when many may not be suited to further academic studies. Another issue is that it has become increasingly difficult for small businesses of any kind, upholsterers included, to consider offering work experience to young people due to health and safety regulations. Joan said: “Businesses only need to have a written health and safety policy statement when they employ five people or over, so small upholstery businesses don’t tend to have them. But problems arise when they take on work experience students and need to write health and safety policies but don’t know where to start.” Upholstery will continue to struggle to attract young people to the trade without subsidy and government help in spreading

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher March/April/May 2011

the message that a career in a craft or trade can be a very attractive one. But, with government financial support having all but dried up over recent times, the news that Proskills UK has been able to acquire this pot of support - albeit until summer of this year - is in itself very positive news for the industry, and we can only hope that funding will soon be put in place that will help upholsterers to train young people and take them on as apprentices. The Proskills programme is now up and running and accepting applications. Contact Paul Preston at 07585 993 229 to take advantage of this funded support. If you have made enquiries about training and/or apprenticeship schemes and decided not to take it forward, could you drop Wendy Shorter a quick email saying who you approached and why you decided not to take it further. Email Wendy at



T EL : 01 70 2 38 27 90 FA X : 01 70 2 38 27 91 We b site: www.fe ath er and fib re.c om E m ai l : i n f o@ f e at h er and f i b r e. c om

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Memory Lane

THE PERFECT TAN A lot can happen in 300 years and the upholstery industry is no exception - depression, mergers, yachts, vintage cars and even the odd shoe. Glasgow-based Andrew Muirhead & Son, producer of upholstery leather, has experienced the lot - and then some! year before the battle of Andrew Muirhead recalls one Quebec City in 1759, an particularly unusual project 18th century Glaswegian was for The Royal Court called John Muirhead started Theatre in London. Said Colin: exporting chamois leather - a type “The designer wanted a of goat/antelope found in the ‘sound free’, unfinished mountains of Europe - to America. leather look for the More than two-and-a-half auditorium seating so we centuries later, the Muirhead name used Huntly waxed leather in lives on and is known across more red and brown.” than 40 countries for its high On another occasion a Andrew Muirhead company photograph 1915 performance quality upholstery designer sent them his shoe leather. It is used by over 120 airlines Leather Works on Dunn Street, Glasgow to match the burnished colour effect so around the world, in some of the world’s a site the company still occupies to this he could replicate it in a client’s vintage most famous very day. car, recalls James. cars – including James Lang, Another interesting project they were the iconic Aston formerly sales approached about, according to works Martin – and by director, and now director Alex Livingstone, was drying and high end group marketing refinishing the leather on Simon Le Bon’s manufacturers of director, started yacht after it had sunk during a race in the domestic working for W J & mid ‘80s. “Unfortunately, we never upholstery. W Lang Limited actually started on the project because the Today, Andrew in 1979 as a yacht was sold soon after,” recalls Alex. Muirhead & Son management Today the business is very different to is part of the trainee on the the one started more than 300 years ago Scottish Leather – and it’s Group, a holding changing all Andrew Muirhead workers on the shop floor company the time. Said made up of five manufacturing facilities shop floor. He moved Colin: “When I located in the west of Scotland – the to Muirheads in 1982 first started in result of a merger in 1965 between the after attending The the business, Muirhead and Lang families’ leather Leathersellers’ Centre 90% of my making interests. The group employs over now part of dealings were 450 people and is increasingly owned by Northampton with furniture its employees. University. manufacturers. All a far cry from John Muirhead’s early James says there In those days, days when, following a long period of have been a number it was a craftdepression, he turned to making glue of memorable based industry from the raw skins. Following his death in moments over the full of Andrew Muirhead factory floor with workers cleaning hides 1826 his son James ran the skin and glue years, including the characters works until 1840, when his own son, time he closed his first big sale with Reid with business based more on personal Andrew - the youngest of 13 children Furniture, which was to become one of relationships. Now, the industry is more took over the business, renaming it Andrew Muirhead’s biggest accounts technology driven and less face-to-face. Andrew Muirhead & Son. Twenty years throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The relationship is with the manufacturer later, the firm moved to the Dalmamock Colin Wade, managing director of rather than the customer.”



Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher March/April/May 2011


IN THE HOTSEAT ......WITH WENDY SHORTER, PRESIDENT OF THE AMUSF How would you most like to be remembered? As someone who cared enough to give something back. How did you get into this business? After having my daughter Louise I wanted to do something that could grow as she became more independent. I had always loved doing upholstery and sewing, so retraining when Louise was young seemed to be the ideal solution. What would you class as your greatest achievement? Personally: my daughter Louise. Professionally: my business, my students and the fabulous work they produce. They all make me very proud. Your greatest regret? That I didn’t start this sooner. Is your glass half empty or half full? Half full, but I also worry about it becoming less than half full! Who has been your greatest inspiration and why? Bert Chapman for his drive and energy and for the encouragement and support that he offers me and my students. He always has time to talk to or to show us some of the fabulous projects he and his family business have worked on over the years. When it comes to sport do you fall into the active or armchair camp? Football or rugby? I hate rugby and football, but I don’t mind the Grand Prix - so long as it’s viewed from the comfort of an armchair. Your perfect day? Spending time with friends and family (especially when someone else is doing the cooking!) Your desert island disc? Not worried about a disc, but I’d like The Archers recorded and sent to me each week. If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing? I’m incredibly fulfilled in what I do and can’t imagine wanting to do anything else. What’s the best thing about our industry? Seeing and creating beautiful work and encouraging others to do the same. And the worst? Poor quality furniture imported or produced in the UK. It does a


Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher March/April/May 2011

great disservice to us as upholsterers and to the public. And people that can’t be bothered to do a good job. What would you change? I’d make it compulsory for anyone working in the upholstery industry to join the AMUSF. That way we would be able to offer better support, advice and benefits to our membership, weed out those who don’t come up to scratch, and have a greater voice in the scheme of things. What’s in your living room? The pieces I produced and practised on while retraining and before letting myself loose on the general public! I’ll do a better job on some of them next time. What winds you up? Poor quality materials: webbing, tacks and trimmings to name a few. The loss of UK manufacturing that has led to us having to accept substandard materials (I’ll make it onto ‘Grumpy Old Women’ yet!) What gives you the greatest satisfaction? Seeing and showing off the fabulous work that my students produce at the end of each year. Doer or talker? A doer. But I must stop talking myself into doing so much. During her presidency, Wendy would like to meet as many members as possible. If there is an event you would like to invite her to, contact Wendy through or call 01727 824358

Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher Magazine  
Upholsterer & Soft Furnisher Magazine  

The official journal of the Association of Master Upholsterers and Sof Furnishers